As a package deal, a book and a jazz CD is an unusual combo and Chip Shelton takes it next-level. The orthodontist-by-day and all-around musician/composer has found the path to fulfilling not one but two dreams. His journey and the steps that got him there are the material that has become the book “Excel in 2 Careers…Plan Be Your Dream” (releasing by the end of this year) and his latest jazz CD “Plan Be Dream Music”.
Shelton plays almost every woodwind known and is an accomplished vocalist too. His Peacetime Ensemble chills together on the CD with songs like “Business Before Pleasure” (Shelton channels a bit of the Mose Allison vibe, and the drums and piano gel here), and “Plan Be” which opens with tight harmonies then a light touch on sax as the music melts into a relaxed smoothness that inspires the imagination. “Gino’s Groove” has Shelton’s deliciously assertive flute take the lead in a bounce-worthy whirlwind.
And yes, it must be said: this orthodontist has chops.
Your book will soon be out. How did you get this idea about succeeding at two careers simultaneously?
The most common question I’ve heard for decades: how do you find time to do both orthodontics and music? I never mustered the inspiration to really answer the question in book form.
My son, after grad school, helped manage the ortho office for a few years, and skillfully identified 13 principles I was consistently applying. They formed the nucleus of the book, with son and daughter as contributing editors. By then, I was full-time in music, my practice sold to a former student…the time was right for diving into the book-writing process.
What inspired you to write the music that goes with the book?
Many of the takeaways from the book are embodied in the song titles and/or lyrics of PLAN BE™ DREAM MUSIC. For example, “Plan Be”; “Business Before Pleasure”; “Plan Your Dream”; “Inspiration/Dedication/Surrender”.
The sound I’m going for is a unique version of Neo-Bop which I summarize in the moniker ARCHITECT OF ROMANCE JAZZ℠. The original music preceded the book. “Plan Be” was composed decades earlier as “Let’s Be Specific”.
I played it on John Hicks’ piano and his widow Elise Wood liked the tune, but her reaction to the title, quite predictably in retrospect, was “good luck with that.”
I originally wrote “Plan Your Dream” for a young aspiring singer who was also working in dentistry. We recorded her singing it, however, it was never released.
“Business Before Pleasure” was the phrase my mom uttered often when I was young, in attempts to inspire handling my assigned chores before going out to play.
How did you meet the members of your ensemble and what does each musician bring to the overall vibe?
Pianist Gino Rosaria and I played together several times when I was featured at the annual Pensacola FL Jazzfest in his current hometown. He’s hugely popular in the Gulf Coast region.
Roy Meriwether, the other pianist, and I first crossed paths as high schoolers in Dayton OH before he signed with Columbia Records and moved to NY.
Bassist Tom Charlap, brother of pianist Bill Charlap, and I are friends since playing together in the Jazzmobile Workshop Orchestra in the 70s under the direction of Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Billy Taylor, and the like. Guitarist/Producer Jim Klein and I have been musical cohorts since he was a principal in a party band I had in the early 2000s called Savoir Faire. He’s one of the coolest, most versatile musicians I know. His guitar, keyboard, composition, and computerized music programs skills are unparalleled.
You play nearly every woodwind and sing and teach. How do you decide what instruments to play in a song you are writing?
As a preschooler in West Virginia I gained some local notoriety playing drums. By the time my family relocated to Dayton, OH when I was 13, I had learned to play harmonica, ukulele, piano, clarinet; sang in the glee club; turned down an offer to tour with the Columbia Boys Choir; and won a local TV talent show for tap dancing. Those early experiences set the stage for a lifetime of multiple musical and instrumental explorations.
Choosing what instrument to compose or perform with on any given song varies, depending on the desired mood, type venue, audience, live versus recording, band makeup, etc. My proficiency on the instrument, at that time, plays a role as well.
Talk about the “Flute Party Band” and how that came off with so many musicians?
In the 90s I led the first known jazz flute big band, the World Flute Orchestra. We performed venues like Zanzibar, NYC; St. Peters/The Jazz Church, NYC; the Sunset Family Jazz Festival, Mt. Vernon, NY, etc. In the 2000s I pared down the concept to a more manageable chamber-jazz group called The NY Jazz Flutet. It consists currently of Dotti Anita Taylor on flute, piano, and piccolo; Haruna Fukazawa on alto flute; Gene Coleman on bass flute; Art Lillard on percussion; and myself playing the bass lines on contrabass flute.
In 2019 I got the inexplicable urge to revisit the flute big band concept, this time adopting a soul-jazz, danceable flavor. I debuted my Flute Party Band (Where Art & Fun are One) in several NY area venues including the January, 2020 APAP Convention at the NY Hilton.
Name one of your favorite collaborations.
My 2003 Flute Bass-ics recording stands out. Ron Carter was producer and played bass, along with his all-star working ensemble. An experience of a lifetime.
Name your favorite small clubs.
Twins Jazz, Washington, DC comes to mind. I have headlined there periodically, often being afforded on-air interviews at WPFW-FM, the DC area top jazz station. Unfortunately the gracious lady-owners, twins from Ethiopia originally, closed during the COVID pandemic, after decades as one of the DC area’s top jazz venues.
Is music the international healer, does it bring people together even in divided times?
Having networked, performed before loving audiences, and recorded with local musicians around the US, and in such far-flung locales as Egypt, Portugal, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, Czech Republic, Hawaii and more, I am constantly amazed to find throngs of like-minded jazz lovers. The music has been a healing force for me personally. I believe it is similarly for many.
Most exciting part of putting together the “Plan Be” project?
It’s an exciting privilege to combine my lifelong love of music, elements of a written memoir, and 13 principles that paved the way to personal successes into a book and CD release that might potentially provide a life-changing source of inspiration for other creative-minded aspirants.
For more information visit https://chipshelton.com/music-video.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
(c) Debbie Burke 2020